Every year across the United States, a significant number of students fail to complete their college degrees. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 30 percent of students who entered college in the fall of 2014 did not return in the second year. The debate over student debt frequently overlooks these students, who typically take on loans but leave college short of attaining a post-secondary credential. Often saddled with debt, and without the benefit of the increased earning power that college graduates accrue, they tend to face a difficult struggle.
By any measure—whether it’s persistence from year one to year two, time to graduation, or the percentage of students who complete their degrees—many postsecondary institutions are falling short.
Demographic shifts underway in the United States will likely further compound the problem in the coming years.
This article highlights some innovative and effective strategies for improving student success across each dimension of the student experience, and we describe the foundational capacities that institutions should develop if they are to drive meaningful improvements. Through a companion checklist we also lay out the chief considerations that higher education leaders should contemplate as they formulate their institution’s strategy for student success.